Friday, March 12, 2010

The Spark

It. Was. Amazing.

I can’t even put into words how incredible it was to carry the Paralympic torch. I am utterly in awe of what I just did and of the scope of the event that I just had the incredible fortune to take part in.

The whole thing seemed to go very quickly, but from start to finish it was actually more than a three hour experience. I showed up, changed into my torchbearer’s uniform, and got signed in. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face and I felt like my enthusiasm was contagious! Everybody who talked to me could tell that I was really excited! I was able to meet with the people who would pass the flame unto me and to whom I was to transfer the fire to after my run. We had our briefing and then loaded up onto a shuttle bus that was to take us to our drop-off points.

I was the first off our bus and when we arrived at my starting station I went up and down the aisle and high-fived every other person before I stepped out onto the street. I saw my family and friends standing there, and a few other people who had assembled, and just felt the anticipation continuing to build! I had the chance to chat a little with everyone and to take some photos before the relay procession came into view. I was gifted the flame and I cheered my heart out as I turned around in the gathered circle, arms raised and torch held high!

It was a feeling of pure joy as I ran around to each person there and brought them even further into the moment, giving them high-hives and cheering them on as they did for me! Just thinking about it now has the tears springing up in my eyes! I started to jog as I was determined to say that I had run – and not walked – with the torch, but it was the absolute slowest I have ever moved in that fashion. I am sure I have actually walked faster than I was running, but I wanted to draw the experience out as long as possible so I kept my pace as slow as I could and just kept on cheering – with a huge grin plastered across my face – the whole time!

It was over so quickly! I came to the end of my leg of the relay, brought the tip of my torch over to the next one, and watched the flame jump alive for the next participant. They quickly extinguished my fire and then tried to load me back onto the shuttle. I paused long enough to run around – still cheering for all I was worth – and high-five all of the people gathered at that location too! Then it was onto the bus where they decommissioned my torch and handed it back to me along with a cover and a box to keep it in. We drove behind the Palalympic flame – with one other car ahead of us – picking up torchbearers as they finished up their individual portions of the relay. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to extend the experience for a little while longer while we were in the vehicle and to watch the famous fire burn from that unique perspective.

Finally, we returned to our starting point and unloaded from the shuttle. I met up with my husband and mother and – after I said a few heartfelt thank you’s to the staff – we decided to go to the nearby miniature cauldron that had been the focal point of the day’s celebrations. We got the chance to take a few more photos and then I was thrilled to be able to lend my torch out to a whole bunch of random people who wanted to hold it and take pictures with it. It was a perfect end to a perfect evening and I really felt like I got to share in something special!

When we were talking about the experience after it was done, my husband told me, “You fueled us all!” The driver who dropped me off even made a point of coming over to me to let me know that people like myself inspire him to play songs about sunshine! I kept getting comments like that from people! Like I already said, I think that my enthusiasm was pretty evident and was passed onto those around me, and I feel really good about that!

I felt like I got it. I believe that I really and truly understood what this relay was all about. Yes, it was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for me, but it was also exactly that for every single person gathered there tonight! This was about so much more than just my own experience with the torch. My carrying that flame tonight was just one small thread in a vast and rich tapestry that has been woven by each spectator, staff member, torchbearer, athlete, organizer, sponsor, volunteer, and casual observer. Everyone was a part of this!

I found something out this evening that made me even happier than I was going into this. The way that I got this unique opportunity was by entering a contest that required me to write a very short essay on why I wanted to take part in this relay. When I was contacted and told that I had been chosen I was still unclear on what that process entailed – I didn’t know if my name had been drawn or if I had been picked based on what I had written. Tonight I found out that it was because of my story. I am so touched to know that it was not simply a luck-of-the-draw prize, but rather a purposeful selection based on the reasons I gave for wanting to participate that resulted in me being offered this unique experience.

I thought that perhaps the few paragraphs I wrote for my contest entry would be found of some interest here so I am posting my entry below (one of the details noted in it, in particular, is obviously from when I wrote it back in January). I am so happy that I got the chance to do this! I can’t believe how lucky I feel to have been a part of something so significant.

I think I’ve been running on pure spirit for the past hour or two so I really have to turn in now. I have a very full day ahead tomorrow and probably won’t have the time to post in the morning, but I will, of course, be back in the evening. I will have sweet dreams tonight… vision of flames, excitement, camaraderie, and smiles will be with me as I drift off to sleep with a grin on my face and a new found spark in my soul.
At the very end of my run, just after lighting the next torch. I'm the one on the left.

“As someone who has worked in the child care field in some capacity for over ten years, I am dedicated to ensuring that equality and diversity are embraced by the next generation. The values we instill in the children of today are comprised of our actions, our words, and our own beliefs – we need to impress upon the younger individuals of this world the importance of providing opportunities for all and of treating others with the same basic respect we would ask for in return.

When we open our minds and hearts to the simple understanding that we all want the same things, we can finally realize that the spirit of humanity is unquenchable. Take me for example… I have recently lost over eighty pounds. It has been hard work and taken a lot of determination, and I have certainly hit my share of bumps in the road along the way. Even now, I am not yet done my journey, but I am doing it. I finally understand that each and every person has something that they are trying to overcome – something perceived by the world in general, or by themselves, as a flaw which can ultimately be the thing that spurs that individual onto greatness.

A spirit in motion. This is who I am now and how I know every other person on the planet has the potential to see themselves.

Thank you for this opportunity. I would be honoured to be chosen to carry the Paralympic torch.”

- 9 glasses of water
- 1 nectarine
- 1/2 celery stalk with homemade hummus
- 2 mugs chai tea with honey and milk
- 1 homemade dark chocolate cranberry walnut cluster
- 3 cups spinach salad with cubed cheese, croutons, dried cranberries, orange pepper, and calorie-wise Greek feta and oregano dressing
- 2 golden delicious apples with cinnamon
- 1 cup steamed asparagus with margarine
- 1 pan-fried banana and light peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread
- 1 large mug coconut steamed skim milk

- 35 minute step workout video


  1. I've caught the spark, the flame all the way East in Ontario! You've ignited my morning 266! You are a gifted writer, evidenced by your essay. Not only is your story impressive, your telling of it is more.

  2. LOVE the pic! Thanks for sending me back!

  3. What an exciting recap of your night! Your enthusiasm just jumps off the screen! :) ~ Angie

  4. That is really cool and something awesome to read first thing in the morning.

  5. This is a random question. But why don't you ever show your face? Will you ever? Maybe you've answered this before but I'm just curious. Thanks! keep up the great work!

  6. I agree with the above...this was a great way to start the morning.

    Again, what an awesome opportunity and your telling of it was very enjoyable.

  7. see you had me smiling along with you :) as I read.

  8. How awesome!!! What an amazing and unforgettable experience :-)

  9. I am so happy that you posted this - I am sitting here grinning from ear to ear!!! We are hoping to get down on Sunday to see the caldron again and I will look and note that you had a part in lighting it. Very cool - very very very cool.

    Oh and everyone watching you will be greatful taht you took your time. When the torch passed by work here last month our torch bearer went by so fast I could hardly capture the moment (and he was running up hill - yikes)

    What a cherished memory!!

  10. I felt like I was there with you and seeing the smile on your face. You are definitely a gifted writer in my book. (Pun intended!)

    Have a lovely weekend hon!

  11. Sounds really cool! What a great experience! :o)

  12. You are amazing!!!!! How exciting & wonderful!

  13. Thank you for sharing this recap! How exciting!

    And your pictures are looking phenomenal, btw.

  14. It was just incredible and I am so fortunate that I was able to extend this feeling a little further into today!

    Anonymous, that's a great question! I originally started this blog with a tiny, unfounded fear that some of the people in my life might come across my online writing (only my husband actually knows about my blog) and see from any photos posted that it was me. I pride myself on the honesty of this journal, but felt that if I had people in my life reading who knew it was me that I might risk losing that important quality because of the possibility of self censorship. So, my photos have always lacked a face. Also, I find that removing the heads from my progress pictures actually does help me be a little more objective when looking at the development of my body. Honestly, I am not so worried at this point about the readership issue anymore. I am far enough into my journey that - while I prefer keeping this blog unknown to the people in my life - if it were discovered I would continue with it as it is. At this point, I almost think it has become a habit. As to whether I will ever show my face or not, I think I will. Not in the super near future, but I have chatted with my husband about the fact that I will probably go through all of my photos and repost them with the heads/faces once I am ready to maintain. (This is unlikely to be at my posted goal of 150 though - I believe I will continue losing for a little while past that still). Anyhow, I've rambled, but I hope I've answered your question!

  15. What an incredible experience! It obviously meant very much to you - I'm so glad you got to participate!